"Great Expectations": the Dichotomy of Good and Evil in the Book

There are many ways that Dickens displays the themes of good versus evil in Great Expectations. This essay will provide the examples how he portrays them continuously throughout the book through characters, actions, and thoughts. In the beginning of the book, Pip has a general idea of what is good and evil. For example, he thinks Drummle is good because he is considered a good man and not a convict, such as Magwitch who he thinks is bad.

Pip’s idea of a gentleman is someone whose morals, social outlooks, and education are more advanced than others, and he perceives Drummle to be in those standards. Magwitch is a good person at heart, but certain circumstances force him to do bad things and he gets sentenced to time in jail multiple times. However, Compeyson was able to get away much easier with very little punishment due to his reputation. Magwitch has a bad appearance, and therefore he gets longer sentences while Compeyson, gets shorter or no sentence because he looks and acts like a gentleman. Even though Compeyson was able to get away with a lot, he also is known for leaving Ms. Havisham at the altar.

Charles Dickens created a very eccentric but interesting main character named Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham was introduced in the book by Pip. Pip was taken to her in her bedroom and described her as an old, yellowed woman with white hair, dressed in white satins, laces and silks, wearing a long white veil with bridal flowers in her hair. He described her room by saying, 'But I saw that everything within my view, which ought to be white, had been white long ago,' which implied that everything was very old. Pip was immediately afraid of her.

Miss Havisham was a wealthy old lady who lived in Satis House, a large house with a brewery and gardens. When she moved there, it was in very nice condition. The brewery was run and everything was kept in good condition.

When Ms. Havisham received the letter from Compeyson saying that she was being left, the time was twenty minutes to nine and she was in the middle of getting dressed for her wedding. She was so devastated that she stopped everything right then. All the clocks were stopped at twenty minutes to nine; the brewery was shut down, the wedding cake left to rot and all the windows were boarded up. Ms. Havisham’s life was ruined afterwards. She did not believe in love anymore, as she clearly stated when she told Pip, 'I’ll tell you what love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter-as I did!'.

Throughout the book, there are many instances of good and evil. Typically, Dickens portrayed the evil through characters that have an influence on Pip. However, Pip himself eventually shows that he is not completely a good person either. Pip decides to leave his small village in the countryside of England to go to the big city of London so he can fulfill his dream of becoming a gentleman. He does this though, at a cost. Joe feels betrayed, even if he doesn’t physically show it, by Pip for leaving him like that to go to London. At first Joe masks his pain by being quiet towards Pip and not seeming to have an opinion either way. But then he supports him in his adventures in becoming a gentleman but still stays to himself a little more like he is hiding his true emotions inside of him. “After a pause they both heartily congratulated me; but there was a certain touch of sadness in their congratulations that I rather resented. ” Pip realizes what he has done but for the moment he cares more about the possibility of becoming a gentleman rather than staying with his friend.

As you can see, there are many instances of good and evil in Great Expectations. Personally, in my opinion there are many more instances of evil and corruption than there are good things and good people. Many people influenced Pip throughout his life, and even though his original ideas of what a gentleman was and people he thought were gentlemen was wrong, he eventually understands that just because someone has a reputation you can’t determine if they are good person or not without discovering it for yourself.

10 October 2020
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